As the door opens, Anarchaia stops mid-sentence as she reads from a copy of Azeroth’s Aviary. Diori jumps up from her spot between the mage and death knight to run to the door with arms open.
“You’re back!” she sings, blue eyes bright with excitement.
Taveth smiles, despite his aggravation, and welcomes his sister into his arms. “I missed you the whole time.”
Alisbeth bounces on the balls of her feet, waiting for her own hug.
“I missed you, too!” Diori smiles and leaps at Alisbeth next, struggling to hold onto her armor. She giggles when Grimory tousles her hair. “We went to the Faire!”
Taveth’s smile dims. “Unfortunately, we have to go, again. Somewhere dangerous. I don’t know how long we’ll be gone.”
Koltira raises an eyebrow. “Dangerous? You?”
The high elf purses his lips. “Yes, me. A Naga took my bag and I intend to get it back.”
Diori frowns, her eyes becoming glossy. “But what if you don’t come back?”
Alisbeth grabs Diori in a big hug. “I won’t let it happen. He’s in good hands.”
Koltira stands. “I’ll go. You stay here and—”
“No!” Taveth clears his throat. “I just want to see to this myself. Heh.”
“Ana is much more powerful than you, anyway,” Grimory grunts. “She should come.”
Anarchaia stands and hesitates. “I suppose,” she mutters, setting a hand on Koltira’s shoulder. “You can keep watching Diori.” She gives a nervous chuckle. <<She likes you more,>> she whispers in Gutterspeak.
Koltira folds his arms, holding back the strange feeling of joy over getting to spend more time with the child. He shrugs ambivalently. “I suppose that could work. So long as she’s okay with it.”
Diori looks back at Koltira and smiles through her worry. She nods. “I had fun yesterday.”
Anarchaia pats her hands together once and sighs. “I guess that’s that. Uh, where are we going? Heh.”
Alisbeth makes to answer, then stops. “You know… I don’t think he said.”
Taveth deflates. “You’re right, he didn’t. He only said that there were a lot of Naga and some great creature.” He scratches at his jaw, then stands. “I need to get a new notebook and pen to use until I get mine back. And a satchel.” He kisses Diori on the top of her head and smiles. “Be good for Koltira and I’ll bring you a souvenir.”
Diori’s eyes light again and she bounces. “Okay!” She runs over to grab Koltira’s hand and takes the book from Anarchaia with the other.
“He said to the north of the academy,” Grimory responds dully, ignoring the jealousy rising in his throat.
Alisbeth smiles at the scene. “You gonna read to Kolty?”
The small elf giggles and shakes her head. “They were reading to me. It’s about birds!”
Taveth gives Diori one last pat on the head, then makes his exit to get the new items and a change of clothes.
Alisbeth bends and gives Diori a kiss on the cheek. “You have fun, okay?” She shoves a finger into Koltira’s face. “Anything happens to her and I’ll kill you. Again.”
The death knight nods. “Oh, I know you will.”
Diori frowns at the tension and climbs back onto the bed. “She killed you?” she asks quietly when Alisbeth leaves.
Koltira laughs. “No. She hurt me really bad, though. It’s because I said mean things to her that I shouldn’t have.” He lifts the book and ruffles the girl’s hair. “Now, where were we?”
Anarchaia follows Taveth and Grimory out of the room. “I know of a healer! I’ll ask around for her while you guys prepare.” She pauses. “And tell Master where I’m going.”
Grimory rolls his eyes. “He doesn’t need to know everything you do, you know.”
“On the contrary,” Taveth says. “She is his apprentice, and so he does need to know if she is heading off into someplace dangerous, in case something happens, so he’ll know where to look to find her.” He gives Anarchaia a small, somewhat distracted smile. “I’ll meet back with you…here? I suppose?” He motions at the mostly empty—save for the early morning patrons crowding the counter for coffee—area of the Legerdemain Lounge.
Anarchaia nods after sticking her tongue out at Grimory for a brief second. “Will do.” She disappears in a flash of light.
Grimory takes note and gives her a rude gesture in her wake. “We’ll…wait here I guess.”
Taveth blinks at the demon hunter. “We? No. I’m still getting a new satchel. And a book or two. And a pen…or two. Maybe three. And a change of clothes.” He pokes at his torn shirt and vest. “Yes. See you soon.” He spins on his heel and heads for Greyfang Enclave.
“I meant Ali and I, but sure,” the Illidari grumbles and throws himself into a weathered armchair.
Alisbeth reaches the bottom of the stairs and cocks an eyebrow at the retreating high elf. “Hey! Wait for— Oh!” She leaps onto Grimory’s lap, throwing her legs over one arm and her head on the other. “Hi, Grim! Where’d everybody go?”
~ * ~
Sometime later, Anarchaia returns looking frazzled and irritated. “Not one,” she hisses. “Not one druid in the entire city. How am I supposed to contact her otherwise?”
Taveth shifts the brand-new leather satchel on his shoulder, pulling on the strap to find some level of comfort. He frowns. “It’s just not the same… Contact who?” He looks to Anarchaia with interest.
“Juliember,” Anarchaia responds defeatedly. “She healed us through the Halls and did a great job.”
“I liked Juno! She was nice. I rode on her back.” Alisbeth gives her cousin a scrunched smile.
“Well, we could adver—”
A leather-clad blood elf, who looks like she spent the past year in a jungle, swings an arm over Taveth’s shoulders and smiles. “You advertising for a healer? Or did my ears betray me?”
“Buh…” Taveth lets out a breath and turns his head away to suck in another. “Did you bathe in vodka?”
“Aren’t you just so bloody cute?” She looks at the others. “OH! Hello there! I remember you lot.”
“Edrah, was it?” Anarchaia says with little enthusiasm.
“I remember you, as well,” Grimory says with a wave. “How goes it?”
“It goes, my darlings. It goes. So, about this—”
“I remember you!” Alisbeth stands and shoves the monk, who teeters back in a manner that should send her to her rear, but she recovers and throws her arm back around Taveth. “You almost let Grim die! I don’t like you.”
“Should I have let him die all the way?” She laughs at her own quip and slaps a hand on Taveth’s chest.
The high elf discreetly shifts and deposits the monk onto Anarchaia’s shoulders. “I’m sure Ali is just mad that he wasn’t healed.” He nonchalantly puts some space between them.
“Pfft.” She waves a dismissive hand. “Extemenuating circumvences.”
“Extenuating circumstances,” Anarchaia corrects, peeling Edrah off herself and stepping away as well as she covers her nose. “And yes, we need a healer to go…wherever. I take it you’re interested?”
Grimory lifts his brows, mildly amused at the scene before him. “Azsuna.”
Edrah grins at Grimory. “Well, that sounds brilliant. And I would love to go. Thank you so much for inviting me!” She perches on the arm of Grimory’s chair, a palm on his shoulder. “When do we start?”
“Immediately,” Taveth blurts before anyone can reply. “How long do you need to sober up?”
Edrah looks at him for a long time before bursting into a laugh so violent she slips and drops to the floor.
Anarchaia sighs. “She doesn’t, it’s said.”
“She heals just fine as is,” Grimory vouches, waving a hand. “I’d have won if it weren’t for that bitch of a rogue.”
A dagger thwongs into the chair next to Grimory’s head. The demon hunter flinches and jerks to look at the attacker. Across the tavern, a blood elf in a red and black outfit, with barbs on the shoulders and hood, narrows her eyes and holds her index finger and thumb an inch apart. She ducks and fades from view. Immediately recognizing her, he offers up his middle finger in return.
Edrah pulls herself up and spots the dagger. “Ooo! Pretty.” She slips it into the bag at her hip. “So, we leave now?”
Taveth grimaces. “Never sober? But… Why?”
“I’ve seen some things, love. Some bloody awful things. And sober is boring. Let me get my staff!” She rushes across the room to pull a long, wavy piece of wood from under a chair. The top of her staff contains a red jewel with feathers dangling from the sides. “Ready!” She shouts and waves them over.
Alisbeth frowns. “Do we have to? With her?”
“Seriously,” Taveth whines.
Anarchaia shrugs and chuckles. “I mean. I can try Steamvolt again—”
“No,” the demon hunter interjects as he stands. “I’d rather have a drunk healer than a distracted one.”
The mage bristles some. “Oh, honestly, Grim. He’s a nice guy.”
“Mm-hmm. So, are we going?”
“Yes!” Taveth barks. “Seriously. We’ve wasted more than enough time. They have Tha— the Tidestone. Let’s go.” He turns and meets up with the drunken monk, who throws her arm over his shoulder and holds a flask up to his face. He cringes and shies away.
Alisbeth narrows her eyes. “Is it just me or is he being a butthead?”
“He’s…definitely different,” Grimory agrees as he comes to walk abreast with Alisbeth. “Rude, cranky. Like it’s his moonblood.” He smirks. “Back to the academy, then.”
Anarchaia perks. “Oh! I brought a map just in case.” She pulls it from her bag and opens it, then points at the academy. “Here?”
Alisbeth nods, then shakes her head. “No, he said uhm…north. Of the cave. There?” She points at a spot on the map north of the academy.
“Oh. I can actually port us near there. Had some business a while back at this Illidari outpost.” The mage rolls up the map and stows it. She lifts her hands and summons the swirling door of light.
“What business did you have there?” Grimory grunts.
“Nothing impressive,” she responds. “Some soul searching, if you will.” She chuckles.
Alisbeth narrows her eyes, gears working in her head. She lets out a nasally henh of a laugh and elbows the mage. “Because they’re dead, right?”
Anarchaia gives Alisbeth a crooked, nervous grin. “I should hope he’s not dead.” She laughs.
Taveth returns to the others, looking flustered and irritated as the monk continues to lean against him—her staff under her arm, flask in hand, and a finger twirling through his ponytail.
“R-right. You’re a mage. Thank you.” Without another pause, he hops through the portal.
Edrah stumbles forward as his support leaves. “I like that boy.” She takes a swig and pats Anarchaia on the ass. “Dibs!” The next second, she’s diving through the portal as though it’s the edge of a cliff with a lake below to catch her.
The mage jumps and flushes as her hind end is touched. “U-uh…good luck with that,” she says after the monk.
“This is gonna be fun.” Grimory chuckles and follows them through.
As the party nears what appear to be ruins surrounded by water and Naga, a nearly transparent figure appears, his arms waving for their attention.
“Oy, who’s the ghostly bloke?” Edrah asks.
Taveth releases his white-knuckle grip on his bag to wave her hand away from his face. “He said his name is Farondis. Some sort of Prince. I think I saw something about him in the academy library, but someone had scribbled over the passage and ripped out the following chapter.”
“I bet he’s a creep and he’s gonna do creep stuff to us,” Alisbeth says through the candy cane in her cheek. She adjusts her positioning on Grimory’s back and giggles with excitement. “Who wants to bet me? I’m really good at bets!”
“I don’t think he’s going to do anything,” Grimory says back to her. “Seems too nice. I’ll take you up on that bet.”
Anarchaia gives a curt bow as they near. “Well met,” she says. “We’ve come to help.”
“And not a moment too soon. There is definite change in the air,” Farondis responds as he returns the bow. “I fear they’re preparing something big. Follow me. I’ll lead you to the portal that leads to their base of operations.”
The monk narrows suspicious eyes on the spirit. “You really expect us to—”
“YES!” Taveth shouts, throwing his hands in the air to untangle her from his shoulders. “He expects us to, and so we are. At least I am. The rest of you can do what you want.” He stomps to follow Prince Farondis.
“Butthead,” Alisbeth whispers in Grimory’s ear.
Grimory snorts. “Jagoff.”
Anarchaia gives Taveth a sideways glance as they walk, too distracted to listen to Farondis’s explanations. “Are you all right? You seem…irritable.”
Taveth glances at the mage. “I’m not irritable!” he partly snaps. “No one understands how precious it is. My bag. My research…” He pulls out one of his new books and a pen, then sighs at the leather journal. “It’s just…not the same. I want my bag and my ink-stained journal. Is that really so much to ask?” He goes to write on the first, pristine, clean page in the book, then frowns and puts everything away. “It’s not the same. This bag is…too light.” It’s just a dagger. Just a dagger that summons demons that hate you. Demons that if under the command of someone of lesser morals… “We need to hurry.”
Anarchaia sets a hand on Taveth’s shoulder in a meager attempt to comfort him. “I understand! If anything ever happened to my library at home, I—ugh. I just don’t know what I’d do. Probably kill myself…a-again. Heh.”
Edrah falls back and sets an elbow on Alisbeth’s thigh like it’s a counter. “Are they a thing?” She motions at the two walking ahead with her flask; the liquor sloshes with the motion.
Grimory gives another snort of a laugh. “No. Pretty fit for each other, though, yeah? Nerds.” He cranes his neck as Farondis makes easy work of a Naga bruiser blocking their path.
“Thingless? Good! Excuse meee!” Edrah rushes ahead to squish herself between Anarchaia and Taveth. She presses her face to nearly touching the high elf’s cheek with her nose. “Hello, thingless. What say we tell this lot to bugger off and we say bollox this portal of doom thingy and we go have a thing.”
“Help,” Taveth whispers so quietly to the mage that he’s sure she didn’t hear. He turns his head away to cough in some fresh air. “It’s like I might get second-hand drunk.” He coughs again.
“You know what I like about places like this?” Alisbeth asks. “It’s easy to get lost. Especially for drunk, unsuspecting little brats who never see it coming.” She sighs wistfully. “Not that I’m talking about anyone specific. Because I’m not. I have no monks in mind. Hm-mmm.”
Grimory chuckles. “Why don’t you guys like her? I think she’s a riot. Look how flustered she’s got Tav.”
Anarchaia blinks, having heard everything. “U-uh!” She wedges herself between Edrah and the other elf, throwing her arm over Taveth’s shoulder and the other hand on her hip. “Actually,” she says nonchalantly, drumming her fingers on Taveth’s shoulder. “He does have a thing. Heh.”
Farondis stops to turn and look at the group, an unimpressed scowl on his face. “Is this going to be an issue?”
Taveth tenses at the mention of him having a thing, but does his best to hide it. He casts his attention to Farondis and shakes his head. “There is no problem. None at all.”
Alisbeth makes a face. “She almost let you die! I’m sure she’s nice and all, but…” She pouts, unable to find a valid reason to actually hate the monk.
“I think it was more of a skill cap than actual intent on letting me die,” Grimory muses, scratching at his beard.
Farondis sighs and turns, motioning to a crumbled tower in the center of a bloodied battlefield studded with murloc hatcheries and large Naga soldiers. “Here,” he says. “Just down these steps.”
Taveth eyes the crumbling tower. “In there?”
“Yes. Through that portal.”
“Wait.” Edrah taps the mage. “What sort of thing? They said he was thingless.”
Anarchaia clears her throat. “Well I’m not sure who told you that but they’re clearly mistaken.”
Alisbeth purses her lips. “Are you going to make me try to like her?”
Grimory tilts his head to look at Alisbeth. “I’m not making you do anything. Simply giving my opinion.” He descends the stairs, past Farondis and into the portal without waiting for an explanation.
Taveth chuckles nervously and stumbles his way through the portal as he fixes a strange expression on the mage.
“But…what thing? What’s the thing?” Edrah asks, following the others through the portal. On the other side she gasps. Naga training on lush green slopes, mountains surrounding the whole area with the sea beyond. “Bloody hell.” She takes a drink from her flask.
<<I’m helping you,>> Anarchaia hisses in Darnassian, not thinking about whether or not he can understand. She stops to look around at the scenery as well. “Bloody hell indeed.”
Grimory sets Alisbeth down and rubs his hands together. He inhales long through his nose. “Oh, this is going to be fun.”
Taveth turns to the mage and sighs. <<Fine. Just…don’t take it too far.>>
Alisbeth gives a dark laugh. “Fun, indeed.” She unsheathes her axe. “Time to feed the baby.”